How I help SMEs get started with social media

How I help SMEs get started with social media

My first digital marketing specialism is social media. After doing research and subsequently publishing my best-selling book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media, I’ve become more involved in developing frameworks and guides for social media in a B2B setting. Social media is probably the most powerful channel for sharing information and knowledge. Over 3 billion people are social media users – that’s 42% of the world! In this blog, I will tell you how I help my clients get started.

Yekemi Otaru published author of The Smart Sceptic's Guide to Social Media in Organisations

Social Media: Do You Really Want It?

I spent over a decade in corporate organisations. One thing I learned is if senior management does not wholly back an initiative, the chances of it succeeding are almost ZERO. This is the same with social media; it is generally a great channel for boosting a company’s brand and developing thought leadership. But the lack of support at a high level could make it unsuccessful.

That’s why I start the “Getting Started” process by establishing affirmation from senior leaders. I work with the MD/CEO to understand the business objectives and expectations from social media use.

Are these expectations realistic?

Also, do senior managers use social media themselves?

For instance, it’s a red flag if the C-suite executives are not on LinkedIn.

Related Blog: Does it matter if your organisation has a social CEO?

Brand surveys such as Brandfog consistently reveal that C-suite engagement on social media makes a brand more honest and trustworthy.

“Since 2013, we’ve seen a 15% increase in the number of respondents who believe that social media engagement makes CEOs more effective leaders. Regarding the changing nature of communications, an astounding 93% of survey respondents view socially engaged CEOs as a means to build better connections with customers, employees, and investors.” – Brandfog survey, 2016

I establish that senior management will genuinely support social media participation for business purposes.

More than once, I’ve had to walk away because the C-suite really weren’t onboard and it saved a headache for all involved.

Social Media: What Do We Need To Do?

Let’s assume that all is well and your C-suite is game. Fantastic!  This is when I put together a proposal that would include a policy, guidelines, training and ongoing support if required. The investment from the client will depend on:

  • How extensively employees will participate in sharing on social media
  • Existing social media policies and guidelines
  • Size of organisation/ Employee number
  • Availability of internal marketing resources
  • Existing knowledge of social media marketing
As an example, I provide training for up to 8 employees with a limited understanding of using social media for business. This costs between £600-£800.  More advanced training costs are a little higher.

If the company accepts my proposal, I work with the MD and/or a designated manager (usually a marketing or communications manager) to understand the current social media status in the company.

Are there existing social media accounts and if so, how well are they working at the moment?

Do employees use social media and are they engaging with their employer’s content?

Related Blog: 20 Tips for getting an employee social media advocacy pilot off the ground

If the company has an online presence, I analyse performance and highlight what’s working and what isn’t working.

I list the actions that will help close the gap between the current status and where the company wants to get to. These actions might include a policy refresh, basic and advanced training and developing strong personal brands for the leadership team.

Sales people using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers (Source)

Now that we have figured out what we are going to do, are we done?

You’ve guessed it: We are not done. In many ways, we have only started. Many companies spend a lot of time analysing and planning, watching the list of actions and nice-to-haves get longer and longer. It could become difficult to move into action.

When I have a good understanding of actions that can make improvements to my client’s brand, I work on implementing their bespoke policy and delivering training that empowers employees to use social media effectively. This is crucial. I’ve come across policies that are heavily restrictive hence, demotivating employees from taking part in building an organisation’s brand.

Social Media: Smart Sceptic® Framework

I use my Smart Sceptic® Framework to ensure that my clients are getting the best start to social media. This framework summarises the essence of successful social media programs. The detail of this framework can be found in my book mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In summary, agreeing shared values with senior leaders and getting their support to embed those values is a key starting point. It ensures that employees feel affirmed and hence, they are more likely to be motivated to participate in social media for the business.

social media employee advocacy YO! Marketing Yekemi Otaru

Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Source)

The next step is to create a social media strategy that works for the business. The strategy should be based on the company’s values and it should support business goals. Research shows that experimentation is a big part of successful social media programs. Don’t be afraid to test your strategy with early adopters in your organisation. Experimentation can be controlled by using one social channel or a group of 5 employees, for instance. Having a group of early adopters that understand the policy and can guide others allows me to adequately handover social media participation to an in-house team when the time comes.

Finally, we move into action. Drumming up participation means resourcing the team. There must be a focal point for social media queries. It is important to equip the teams responsible for making social media a success. Train them, support them and recognise them.

Social Media: Taking Sustainable Action

Sometimes, companies want to keep me on a retainer basis. As part of a retainer service, I’d get monthly updates on social media progress and goals. Working closely with the MD and internal team, I would deliver refresher training on topics such as content creation and personal branding on social media. I am also part of the content creation team and available to be the focal point for employees when they have questions or require one-on-one support.

Retainers range from £350-£1,000 per month depending on support needs, contract length and the size of the company.

To make good progress, there needs to be sustained and deliberate efforts to build a participative culture. This takes time.

Related Blog: Employee Social Media Advocacy Stats & Examples

In research with companies like IBM, Dell and Cisco, marketing managers admitted that this could take as much as 18 months. So don’t give up too soon. Social media is worth getting right. Let me know if I can help.

4 Common Employee Advocacy Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them

4 Common Employee Advocacy Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them

Overcoming employee advocacy challenges could determine the long-term success of your social media advocacy programme. Employee advocacy is a long-term process that aims to engage and influence employees within an organisation such that they acknowledge the need to advocate for their employers in an online setting. It is, therefore, not transactional or an “event” so you cannot do it once and move on.

 

Hence, at the centre of every employee advocacy programme is the need to continuously communicate why employee advocacy matters, and to overcome the challenges that prevent long-term success.

 

Do the rewards outweigh employee advocacy challenges?

With the increase in employee advocacy in recent years, companies have encountered a host of challenges that could limit success.

Companies that adopt employee advocacy as part of their overall strategy reap many benefits. A Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today survey reveals some of the benefits. Let’s start by enumerating some of the benefits to the company:

  • 79% of companies see an increase in brand visibility
  • 44.9% realise increased web traffic
  • 11% say that their sales cycle has shortened

And that’s not all. Employees of these companies report direct professional benefits because of taking part in employee advocacy programme:

  • 87.2% of employees expand their professional networks
  • 76% say that the programme helps them to keep up with industry trends
  • 47.2% have developed skills in high demand

With these benefits, it is no wonder that companies strive to overcome the barriers to success in employee advocacy. In this post, we identify the four common challenges in employee advocacy, and how companies might overcome them.

Employee Advocacy Challenges: We have no content to share

Generating content for employees to share is daunting for many companies. Part of the challenge might be about who will write, approve, curate and manage the content. A good content marketing strategy will support a lot of the effort that goes into developing engaging content. Have an owner for content management and a process for collecting and approving content. Remember that not all your content needs to be written by your company. Look out for other content by third parties and industry news feed that your customers will find relevant.

Employee Advocacy Challenges: Our leaders are not active on social media

It is difficult to sustain an employee advocacy programme without the buy-in of your leaders. The ideal situation is that your CEO and senior executive are active on social media, and advocate alongside employees. But the reality is that this is not always the case – and it’s a challenge! Whether or not your leaders are active on social media, leaders should openly support and recognise the value of employee advocacy. Drive engagement through middle managers who can be role models, and are closer to the day-to-day operations. Middle managers are often more visible to employees.

Employee Advocacy Challenges: Employees think being on social media is Marketing’s job

The Hinge and Social Media Today survey also reveals that 51.7% of employee advocacy programmes are owned by the Marketing department. While it is common for Marketing departments to own social media programmes, it is not the sole role of marketing. The benefits of social media transcend just marketing so it is important to help employees see why employee advocacy matters while keeping participation completely voluntary. This is arguably the greatest challenge to companies. The most impactful incentive for motivating employees is the continuous communication of the importance of social media as reported by over 40% of companies.

Employee Advocacy Challenges: Employees are worried that they will do the wrong thing

A social media policy and a set of guidelines are one of the first things a company needs to put in place before any employee advocacy programme. If your guidelines aren’t clear or they contradict what you are asking employees to do, you are unlikely to generate participate from your staff. Nobody wants to inadvertently do the wrong thing and risk disciplinary action or worse. Ensure those clear guidelines are easily accessible to employees looking for more information. Have a contact person that can answer any questions about the use of social media in an online business setting. This person should be visible, able to give or organise training at a basic and advanced level for all employees who intend to take part in employee advocacy.

Final words

You might look at the benefits of employee advocacy and think that there is probably just as much in it for the employees as there is for your company. That’s correct! Therefore, communicate why employee advocacy matters and equip your staff with training and guidelines. Ensure that everybody knows where to go to for resources and support. That way, common employee advocacy challenges will not hinder your success.

See our book on social media advocacy
 Feature Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
A version of this article was originally published on the Smarp blog on 13 June 2017.
What GE Oil & Gas did to supercharge employees on social media

What GE Oil & Gas did to supercharge employees on social media

GE Oil & Gas supercharges its social media presence

A few years ago, GE Oil & Gas, one of the world’s leading equipment and services’ providers in the oil and gas space, embarked on a series of online experiments. The oil equipment giant trained a cohort of 20-40 high potential leaders to engage online. Becky Edwards was Chief Communications Officer at GE Oil & Gas during this time. I spoke to Becky about GE’s approach to digital interactions. She explains:

The GE team asked this question early on: what would it be like to take this cohort and supercharge them digitally?”

Becky started at GE in 2010 as Global Employee Communications Leader. She describes the internal environment she joined as ‘socially-enabling-digitally’ and employee-driven. Existing internal GE systems allowed employees to comment and even retract offensive comments. She remembers that in 2010, the ability to request a retraction was a progressive capability at that time.

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GE Oil & Gas empowers high potential staff

By 2012, GE had put together a robust set of guidelines for external social media activities.  This set the scene for Becky and her team to develop a specific training programme for the high potential cohort. The programme focused on how they might use their influence in a digital world. As part of the training, Becky and her team prepared the cohort to showcase their digital know-how at the GE Oil & Gas Annual Meeting normally held in January/February of every year.

 

The team covered topics such as the importance of content marketinghow to create content for social media and where to publish the content once it is created. They also co-created content with the cohorts. The cohort, now digital ambassadors, applied their knowledge from the training on social channels such as Twitter. They could provide a glimpse of the annual meeting for those not present.

GE Oil & Gas enables more online conversations

Becky explains that having set guidelines isn’t enough. As a result of the experiment, Becky says the team realised they needed to visibly and deliberately give people permission. Contrary to the idea that only the most senior person in the team can have a voice, Becky says,

“We needed to tell employees that it’s OK to have a voice, own what you know and share it”

What would be a good outcome for GE Oil & Gas? Becky explains that social media is an enabler that allows the organisation to:

  • Do more commercial transactions that stem from digital interactions
  • Generate goodwill and positive mind share such that people looking for information can find positive information
  • Position GE Oil & Gas employees as thought leaders in their field
  • Draw potential and existing customers into a deeper conversation

Traditionally, technical experts share their knowledge through conferences for instance. At conferences, the conversation would be one to many people sitting inside a room somewhere. Becky says,

“Thanks to social media platforms, more people can now fit inside that room”

 

Check out other employee social media examples: Rackspace

Check out tips for starting a social media pilot: 20 tips

***
Photo credit: momoneymoproblemz, CC 3.0 license, 2014, General Electric Sign, Fort Wayne, Indiana
I interviewed Becky Edwards on September 2015. This is a modified version of a blog originally published on LinkedIn on December 15, 2015
How to Select the Right Employees for Social Media Advocacy

How to Select the Right Employees for Social Media Advocacy

Identify the right employee advocates to get the most out of your social media advocacy programmes.

Social media advocacy has become a key mechanism in B2B marketing. Allowing employees to promote your brand, products and services could significantly shorten your sales cycle and improve employee engagement. It is also a relatively low-cost way to increase your brand reach.

However, engaging on social media isn’t for every employee. Participation must be optional, empowering employees who have a combination of skill, interest and credibility.

Social media advocacy, who will do it?

A good first step to selecting employee advocates is to develop a sound understanding of the appetite for social media participation within your organisation. One useful approach is to create a survey that asks employees key questions about their social media activity. The survey should find out some of the following things:

  • Social media platforms used
  • Frequency of use
  • Mode of engagement i.e. whether they create, engage or just skim content
  • Willingness to share content on behalf of your organisation

Keep the survey anonymous, identifying respondents by department/level, e.g. sales, customer service or team leader, manager etc. and by office location for instance. You can create your own questions or use existing ones.

Here are five ways to select employee advocates:

1. Credibility and influence

Employees who already have a strong presence on social media could be highly valuable to your social media advocacy programme. Such employees are probably well respected by their peers, and regularly engage online in a professional way. Moreover, they are likely to be not just content sharers but also content creators. This is a highly valuable characteristic as research has shown only 1% of social media users will fall into this category.

2. Involve senior leaders 

You might find that the best advocates are your senior leaders. Whether you are bringing a new product to market or reinforcing your brand values, senior leaders as employee advocates could provide real impact online. Their participation also motivates employees, giving them role models that walk-the-talk. However, be mindful that getting senior leaders to actively engage online requires active support in areas such as time management.

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3. Some functions have more appetite

When it comes to social media advocacy, you can assume that employees in marketing, sales and customer support services will have more of an interest in getting involved. Therefore, engage these departments as advocates, at least to get the programme started. Depending on your industry, employee advocates in technical functions might be extremely valuable to engage. But don’t worry if technical employees e.g. engineers aren’t keen. There are several ways employees can get involved in social media e.g. “listening” in on online customer conversations and finding solutions to their challenges.

4. Engage where your customers are

Sometimes, it will come down to location. If your business strategy is to increase market penetration in a specific region, it might make sense to get mass social media participation in that region. The web is global, but there is value in a customer knowing that they can contact an employee who has shared some useful information about a product – knowing that the employee is local, and more likely to be able to meet them in person to discuss their needs. This might be just what a customer needs to make a final decision on a purchase.

5. Train existing social media users

Employee advocates should be social media users. Trying to convince employees to get on social media, solely for the purpose of becoming advocates doesn’t work. But not any social media user will do. Ensure that the employees have appropriate guidelines and training for how you want them to conduct themselves on social media. Also, consider focusing on one platform at a time e.g. LinkedIn or Twitter, providing not just education around social media policies but education on the idiosyncrasies of each platform.

Final words

You don’t need an army of a 100 employees to begin your social media advocacy programme. Ultimately, you should start with a few early adopters – then grow!

 

This blog was written by Yekemi Otaru and originally published on the Smarp blog con 28th March 2017

Does it matter if your organisation has a social CEO?

Does it matter if your organisation has a social CEO?

If you work for SalesForce, General Electric, or Hewlett-Packard, you are one of few employees who has a social CEO. You might take it for granted. But research shows that as at 2016, 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs had no social media presence at all. However, CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are active on Twitter. And General Electric’s Jeff Immelt and Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman have more than 100,000 followers on LinkedIn. It is not always possible for your company’s CEO to be a social media guru, but it does make the marketing team’s job a lot easier.

Social CEO Logic: Successful Employee Advocacy Is About Culture And Leadership

YO! Marketing employee engagement social media As I prepared to write my book, I interviewed social media and marketing professionals in ten companies. These companies included GE, SAS, and IBM. It became clear that some companies had a head start with employee advocacy. This was partly due to their inherent company culture and exemplary leadership. Leaders like Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff have done an outstanding job of being present on social platforms  in a way that encourages his employees to follow suit. It’s a sign that says, “Hey, I buy into this!” Other companies have struggled to generate the level of employee participation required to make social media employee advocacy sustainable. Part of the challenge is getting their business leaders to walk the talk. Over recent years, more reasons have been uncovered as to why CEOs should be social that dispute some of the risks involved in putting one’s self out there.

Social CEO Problem: Research Shows It’s A Good Idea But It’s A Hard Sell

YO! Marketing social media CEO employee advocacy The 2016 Brandfog Survey on the Social CEO reveals the perception that executive participation in social media leads to better leadership grew by 15% between 2013 and 2016. Respondents to the survey also believe that it builds brand trust. This is probably why 85% state that having a socially active C- Suite leadership team can mitigate risk before a brand reputation crisis occurs. How might you encourage your CEO to be more social? A recent article on IF suggests that training your CEO is out of the question and recommends fitting social around the CEO rather than trying to fit the CEO into social. A fair bit of researching and convincing needs to be done to move a non-social CEO into social media. This is the reality.

Social CEO Reality: Your CEO Is Probably Too Far Away Anyway

YO! Marketing social ceo team work employee engagement Top executive support inspires employees. However, one global social media manager at a top social brand told me that it is more important to have a layer of middle managers that support social media employee advocacy programs. A social CEO might be just too far away to be an effective role model to those lower down in the organisation. In addition, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer: 52% of consumers trust an “average” employee more than a CEO, a statistic that rose 30% between 2009 and 2014. And this % has probably grown since then. Perhaps middle management is more influential—not just internally, but externally too.

Social CEO Trend Line: The Future Of Employee Advocacy

YO! Marketing employee engagement During the interviews, I found that managers reinforced values by talking about them and behaving in ways that supported them. Employees are empowered by this. With the appropriate guidelines and support, employees start to participate. A recent article in Fast Company shows that employee advocacy programs have grown by 191% since 2013. Perhaps we can expect similar growth in CEO participation on social media.  Are you a social CEO or do you work for a company that has one? Leave a comment to tell us if it makes a difference.

All these images are free from pixabay.com
This is a modified version of a blog originally published on the openfor.business blog on 22 February 2016
The Importance Of Content Marketing In Your Business

The Importance Of Content Marketing In Your Business

This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.

 

With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business.   The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel.   Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.

Building trust

Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight.   It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion.   Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.

Lead generation

Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads.   By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.

You can measure and adjust

Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes.   Here are some tips on with content.   Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.

Boosting thought leadership through content marketing

Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.

What type of content works?

Blogging B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.

 

Social media A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.

 

Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.

What’s it all about?

Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.

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